Canada repeals its blasphemy law

Thanks to several humanist groups, the Canadian blasphemy law, which hasn’t been much used, has just been repealed. As reported by Humanists UK, the bill passed the Canadian Parliament two days ago and now “awaits royal assent”. (Those ties to the UK still irk me. Why the hell does the Queen have to certify this?)

More:

The repeal followed an e-petition by humanist groups across Canada which called for an end to Section 296. The petition gained 7,400 signatures.In response, the Canadian Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, confirmed that repeal of the blasphemy law was being considered as part of a wider package of justice reform, and in 2017 the Government introduced the Bill to repeal the law.

. . . Canada will be the latest country to repeal its blasphemy laws, following France, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark. Ireland is also set to repeal its law following a referendum on the matter in October. Legislation is also being advanced to repeal blasphemy laws in Spain and New Zealand.

Who says that humanist groups can’t accomplish anything?

Now this law hasn’t been much used, like most blasphemy laws in Western countries; but it’s offensive and potentially dangerous to have offense criminalized, even if only on the books. Here’s Canada’s law that was just repealed (click on screenshot to see it on the site:

Note, though, that this is just “blasphemous libel,” which Wikipedia characterizes for Canada as “the publication of material which exposes the Christian religion to scurrility, vilification, ridicule, and contempt, and the material must have the tendency to shock and outrage the feelings of Christians.” I’m not sure if you can still blaspheme other faiths!

And note that Canada retains numerous hate speech laws, with many of the provinces having one or another version of laws that criminalize publication of material promulgating hatred involving the usual factors. Here, for example, is the one from Manitoba:

Manitoba’s The Human Rights Code allows an adjudicator to order inter alia that a respondent pay damages for injury to dignity, feelings or self-respect in an amount that the adjudicator considers “just and appropriate”, and to pay a penalty or exemplary damages (up to $2000 in the case of an individual respondent; up to $10,000 in any other case) if malice or recklessness is involved. Manitoba’s Code is unique in having an “analogous grounds” provision. Complaints can be based not only on the listed grounds (such as sex, age, national origin, etc.), but also on grounds analogous to the listed ones. For example, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission currently accepts complaints based on gender identity.

These aren’t the same thing as blasphemous libel, so the humanists and free-speech advocates still have a lot of work to do.

 

h/t: Grania

38 Comments

  1. dabertini
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    “Why the hell does the Queen have to certify this?”

    Ask Bruce Evans. He’s a damn monarchist.

  2. Robert Ladley
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Canadian Parliamentary Royal Assent doesn’t actually involve the UK queen.

    During Royal Assent the Governor General acts on behalf of the Monarch and approves a bill passed by Parliament to make it law. Sometimes a Royal Assent ceremony takes place in the Senate Chamber. Other times, the bill is signed at Rideau Hall, where the Governor General lives.

    One of those hangovers from the past.

    • Glenda Palmer
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Good explanation. Suppose it is a tradition and rubber stamp we have. Adds to pomp a bit maybe.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes and if the Governor General isn’t able to give assent a Justice of the Supreme Court or a senior official can do it instead.

      The traditional ceremony is weird though I suspect that they usually just do a written thing.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Canadians (I am one) tend to value anything that helps distinguish them from their neighbours to the south.

      • tomh
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        Very wise.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Canada’s like the nice older couple living in the apartment upstairs from a biker bar where they cook meth in the bathtub, shoot guns in the parking lot, and blast the jukebox all night long.

        It’s a lovely and commodious apartment, with wonderful views of the surrounding provincial parks, but the heating and hot water are spotty in the winter, and there’s one helluva racket coming from below.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          It’s why we just legalized marijuana.

        • Peter
          Posted December 13, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          As the Americans approached Detroit during the war of 1812 they picked up a radio station in Windsor announcing that it was going to be a warm sunny day with an expected high of 20°C. That was as far as they dared travel, and the border was established running down the Detroit River. 68°F on the American side and 20°C on the Canadian side.

          Oh, and our heat and hot water are just fine – and the water is drinkable.

      • Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I value (usually) Canadian distinction too, yet I am also anti-monarchist.

        (Personally I would change the rule if I could to appoint a random Canadian eligible to vote to be GG for a 10 year term and with nobody allowed to serve more than 1 such.)

        • rickflick
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          Random Canadian? Wouldn’t you at least require a high school diploma with a GPA above average?

          • Posted December 17, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            No. Even the undereducated should be able to make their mark. After all, if the role is purely ceremonial …

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Much the same in NZ. A respected New Zealander is chosen as the queen’s representative by the Prime Minister, who consults leaders of other political parties. The Governor-General signs bills into law and attends numerous public ceremonies for the next five years.

      The only irksome feature of this, IMO, is that every few years NZ hosts a visiting royal and the mass media go even more gaga then usual.

    • David Harrison
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Well, “hangover” is one way to put it, but our system of government is deeply based around the concept of the “Crown”, with the Queen of Canada being the physical representation of the Crown, and the GG being her day to day representative.

      It’s not at all symbolic; it’s deeply wedded not things in a way that would take a massive effort to change. It’s just not worth it. It works well enough, and really it’s great to have someone non-political who can attend functions on behalf of the Canadian state. It avoids problems the US gets into when the president is, ahem, deeply controversial.

      Some of the connections are weird though. I remember as a summer student working in the Ontario government taking out a government fleet car. The insurance was issued to “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario”. Liz must have quite a driving record by now…

    • Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      For those who do not live in a Constitutional Monarchy, it is difficult to understand the role of Royal Assent. It is for all practical purposes a formality and seemingly an anachronism. In fact, it is one of the backstops against tyranny. Because of Parliamentary Supremacy, it is possible for a majority party to pass authoritarian bills. This happened in Alberta in the 1930s when the Social Credit party tried to muzzle the press with the Trumpian sounding “Act to Ensure the Publication of Accurate News and information.” The Lt. Governor, who is the Monarch’s representative at the provincial level, refused assent. Royal Assent has never been denied at the national level in Canada and not in England since the eighteenth century.

  3. Davide Spinello
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Now we have just to argue that hate speech laws are better understood as blasphemy laws.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    (Those ties to the UK still irk me. Why the hell does the Queen have to certify this?)

    Yeah, especially seeing as how blasphemy laws are just as useless as those prohibiting lèse majesté.

  5. nwalsh
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Remember Thomas Aikenhead!

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    So, in Manitoba an “adjudicator” can fine you $2000 if you injure someone’s “feelings”?
    Is the purpose of “hate speech” legislation to return the entire population to roughly the early grades of elementary school? The role of these “adjudicators” sounds a bit like the racket followed by the Pardoners in late medieval Europe, except that they were not enforced by the state.

  7. phoffman56
    Posted December 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Partially answering several above on “royal assent”, I agree it’s bloody juvenile for us, or the kiwis, or maybe even the brits, to have the “royal” part. That’s just a taxpayer-financed birthright-generated celebrity cult for morons with nothing better to do with themselves.

    Of course, e.g. the presidential pardon for the USians, and other stuff, might be even worse. But at least the (present-day) idiot, and the previous, got the votes (except for Bush in 2000).

    Perhaps for the Brits and the Norwegians there is some history with it, and I guess it’s none of my business for those other countries. Actually the Norwegian crown prince just lives down the street from my good friends in Asker. His children go to school with Kjell’s grandchildren. But also over there the mass psychology is a puzzle to me, with the usual the local gossip ‘newspapers’, for the mentally-retarded of grocery store cash queues, filled with stories of princess ‘scandals’.

    But the “assent” part is needed, and the Canuck method of deciding on who gets to be ‘gov’ works pretty well. Just don’t send the damn selection over the pond to those news-rag-fodder-celebrities to ‘permit’ us to make those choices.

    The word “crown” in our legal system can mean what we want it to, not just what sits on top of an empty head.

    And I’d much sooner see some of my taxes feeding starving Yemeni children, than paying for Charles to slither around on a glacier in the Canadian Rockies while on royal tour.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      “just a taxpayer-financed birthright-generated celebrity cult”

      Well, I think in the minds of many royalty supports national identity. The royals represent continuity over historical time spans. It’s certainly an anachronism, and I suppose our sports heroes and movie stars fill the role adequately.

      • phoffman56
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 4:33 am | Permalink

        “..royalty supports national identity..”
        Not too much for Quebecois in Canada, Irishmen in Belfast, aborigines in Melbourne, etc… For them it’s an entirely unnecessary ‘in your face’.
        To the royalty obsessed: take up Kim Kardashian, or Tiger Woods, or some Scientology-soaked Hollywood ‘star’, and drop Diana, Meghan and Kate. Spend my tax money on human needs.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:42 am | Permalink

          I’ve argued for this in regard to Quebec. They really don’t need to be isolated further and I have more in common with French Canadians than an English monarch so if they don’t like it, we should think about that and do something.

          • Posted December 14, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            It has always (well, since I was a teenager) the one point of agreement I have with most Quebec nationalists. (Who I generally regard as a bunch of at best ignorant, at worst racist, fools.)

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted December 14, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

              Indeed! I see where they are coming from on this issue.

    • Posted December 14, 2018 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      Hmm, I’m not sure the characterisation of people who enjoy all the Royal stuff as morons and mentally retarded is completely necessary. If that’s their thing, who cares? They probably think it is pretty weird to follow a web site with anthropomorphised ducks and cats on it.

      The British monarch is also the constitutional head of state of the UK and a couple of other former colonies. As such, I don’t really see any need for elections, since the job is all ceremonial.

      Ireland has a constitutional president with similar powers to our monarch but they need to have an election every seven years. I notice the current incumbent was elected with 55% of the vote but the turn out was less than 44%

      https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/presidential-election/lowest-ever-turnout-in-presidential-election-37465373.html

      That’s not exactly a ringing advert for democracy.

      By the way, in the USA, the present idiot lost the popular vote just as Bush 43 did, so that’s not a ringing endorsement of democracy either, but unlike theQueen or Michael Higgins, he has the power to do stuff.

      • phoffman56
        Posted December 14, 2018 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        In reverse order:

        1/ In reality, Bush lost the electoral college, Drumpf didn’t. Of course, with that method for electing presidents, its blatant gerrymandering, its after-electoral-loss before-new-regime ‘castrations’, potential presidential-self-pardons for shooting people on 5th avenue etc.., US politics is far from very close to small ‘d’ democratic or sometimes from decent separation of powers. But it has some superior constitutional aspects to other Western countries. And that’s a different question anyway.

        2/ Canada doesn’t, and has no need for, electing its needed Governor General. So again a red herring here about Irishmen wasting their tax dollars on unneeded elections.

        3/ You possibly self-identified. But my remark with the word “moron” did not specify any individual. Rather it expressed my opinion on certain behaviour in Canada as being moronic, quite apart from being harmful to English-French relations, embarrassing to other Canadians, and perhaps even slightly harmful in influencing the attitudes of impressionable young people. But sorry if it was taken personally, especially if you are non-Canadian and among those referred to in my “none of my business for those other countries”.

        • phoffman56
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 5:15 am | Permalink

          Oh, and
          4/ I’ve never commented on ducks or cats. One can follow the very interesting parts of a non-blog, and ignore the perfectly fine personally interesting matters to Jerry that are not necessarily that interesting to oneself. So the analogy with the celebrity-mongering Royalty-obsessed is pretty weak.

        • Posted December 15, 2018 at 6:48 am | Permalink

          Of course, with that method for electing presidents, its blatant gerrymandering, its after-electoral-loss before-new-regime ‘castrations’, potential presidential-self-pardons for shooting people on 5th avenue etc.., US politics is far from very close to small ‘d’ democratic or sometimes from decent separation of powers.

          You make my point for me.

          Canada doesn’t, and has no need for, electing its needed Governor General. So again a red herring here about Irishmen wasting their tax dollars on unneeded elections.

          Are you saying that Britain should appoint a governor general in the same way as Canada does? The Canadian governor general is the Queen’s representative. She is a proxy for the British royalty, so it doesn’t really work if you want to get rid of the monarchy.

          So again a red herring here about Irishmen wasting their tax dollars on unneeded elections.

          My post didn’t mention the monetary cost at all. Please stop putting words in my mouth.

          my remark with the word “moron” did not specify any individual. Rather it expressed my opinion on certain behaviour in Canada as being moronic

          No. Your remark specified a whole group of individuals. You dismissed a whole group of people as embarrassing, morons and mentally retarded simply for having an interest that you do not share.

          • phoffman56
            Posted December 15, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

            “My post didn’t mention the monetary cost at all.”

            Correct, sorry for going beyond what you actually said. So my (better?) attempted specific reply to that Ireland comment would surely be that you think electing a ‘titular’ head of state is a bad idea, but for some other vague reason.

            And further up it’s clear we more-or-less agree that an elected system for a head of state with much power, as in the U.S., does have some serious drawbacks.

            And finally your criticism of my ‘removal of the queen, but select as in past’ for us in Canada makes it seem not good to you also, perhaps because I did not simply say to transfer whatever ‘power’ the queen now has to our self-selected gov. gen.

            But I have seen no specific alternatives from you to these. In this context, I can only ‘deduce’ that you seem to think that, preferable to all these three, is a system in which the head of state is in power till death or resignation. And that the immediate successor is determined by an ordered set of individuals from the old one’s extended family, with the criterion for defining that ordered set being the success (i.e. in producing progeny) of sexual activities by various people within that family.

            I’d respectfully disagree with that, whether or not it is actually your opinion.

  8. Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Point of order: What if the queen refused to give her royal assent?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 13, 2018 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      As mentioned in this thread, the queen doesn’t consult on Canada’s bills as like Australia, NZ and many other former colonies still in the commonwealth, it is a sovereign nation. The governor generals grant assent through the consultation of ministers. It would work like a US President’s veto and is a final check on something unconstitutional.

      An example was mentioned earlier of the only time a bill was refused assent in Alberta (a provincial legislature so by the lieutenant governor). Here is how Wikipedia describes it and it was indeed a final check that stopped a bad billing:

      Two bills sought to put banks under the authority of the province, thereby interfering with the federal government’s powers. The third, the Accurate News and Information Bill, purported to force newspapers to print government rebuttals to stories to which the provincial cabinet objected. The unconstitutionality of all three bills was later confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

      • tomh
        Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

        The mechanics may be the same as a presidential veto, but the reasons sound very different. A veto is usually for political reasons of one sort or another.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 14, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

          I don’t know what that means.

  9. Posted December 13, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    Thank all the gods in agreement, the tide is beginning to turn!

  10. Pray Hard
    Posted December 14, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    That’s funny. Canada is becoming more sharia-compliant by the minute.


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